Thursday, February 9, 2017

2017 NFL Draft Breakdown: Iowa Hawkeyes Defensive Tackle Jaleel Johnson

Continuing my breakdowns of Iowa prospects, we move on to defensive tackle, Jaleel Johnson. Although he was never seen as Iowa's most important player, Johnson may be the best prospect going into the 2017 NFL Draft. This is because nobody on Iowa's roster had the raw physical tools that make Johnson so special. I wanted to look at his games against Penn State and Iowa State from this past season and a 2015 game against Purdue.

A lot of people are going to talk about Johnson's power at the line, but it's his explosiveness that really stands out and helps him make plays at the line of scrimmage. Here, Johnson stuffs a run play with what looks like no effort.
The left guard's goal here is to get to the inside shoulder of Johnson. It's not an easy job, but at worst, he has to get head on to at least get a push on him. Instead, all he can do is get to Johnson's outside shoulder, and he gets absolutely no push on Johnson, as he is shucked off like it was all 150 pounds of me trying to block him. The way that Jaleel Johnson explodes at the line of scrimmage would basically make a block like that impossible. I don't care if you have Marshall Yanda at guard, asking anyone to get to the far side of Johnson is an impossible task, and I suggest that NFL offenses do not scheme anything that would require an offensive lineman to do it.

But let's not forget about the power either.

Here, Johnson just totally overwhelms the offensive guard, which is pretty obvious since the guard ends up on his ass while Johnson sacks the quarterback. The key is that Johnson get his hands on the offensive lineman before he can get his hands on him. Once he has the punch to the inside, the guard is left grasping for something that he can't quite reach while Johnson uses one arm to big brother him, and throw him off to the side when he's ready to sack the quarterback.

So what's the problem? Well, it doesn't always show up. An example was the Penn State game where he just didn't have a big impact. And it wasn't just a Penn State scheme. Yes, he faced some double teams but even when he had only one blocker, he failed to create much penetration in the run or pass game. He has the ability to take over games, but sometimes he looks like he's fine to just hold the line. Some of that is likely due to Iowa's scheme and some is that he played every snap and a guy that big would probably be better in about 75% of those plays. But it still seemed that at times he would just up and decide to be unblockable and other games you wouldn't notice him.

Jaleel Johnson is going to be a guy who can make an impact right away for an NFL team. Although I struggle to see Pro Bowls in his future, I do see a guy who can be an essential piece of a strong defense. I see him as a Timmy Jernigan type player who may not get a lot of national publicity but is a key piece for the Ravens. Since he didn't generate great stats, he will probably be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round, but whoever drafts him will definitely be happy with their selection. Iowa fans are going to miss him.

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